Game 7: Michigan at Utah Post Game

Dylan Burkhardt

In what could be described as nothing short of a must win, Michigan fell painfully short… again. Michigan got out played, out hustled, and flat out beat.

Michigan clawed back into the game several times thanks to some stellar play from Manny Harris but just couldn’t get over the hump. Every time Michigan got close, Michigan blew a huge play or Utah made one. Utah freshman Marshall Henderson was the man for Utah. He came out on fire, knocking down an array of three point shots and didn’t look back en route to a career high 22 points.

The four factors don’t lie, Michigan was terrible on both sides of the ball:

Michigan’s offensive ineptitude can be summed up by a couple painful statistics:

  • They shot only 35.7% on two point field goals.
  • 14% of Michigan’s field goal attempts were blocked.
  • Michigan made just 17 shots last night. Manny Harris made 8 while everyone else combined for just 9 baskets. 5 two point field goals and 4 threes.
  • Michigan got to the line but shot just 51% (11-20) from the free throw line.

Michigan’s offense just isn’t working. They go inside and can’t score, they can’t hit threes, the occasional successful backdoor cuts lead to blocked layups half the time. The entire offense looks tentative, whether it is passing, dribbling or shooting. The offense on the floor looks painfully similar to the offense in Beilein’s first year in Ann Arbor and that should be scary for any Michigan fan.

As bad as the offensive was, the defense might have been worse. There have been far too many inexcusable lapses on defense. Michigan is getting beat down the court, getting caught out of position after going for cheap steals, not stopping the ball in transition, going under screens, and consistently arriving late with help side defense. There is really no explanation for the poor performance on defense. Once again, the numbers don’t lie:

  • Utah shot 67% from inside the arc, almost double Michigan’s total, for an eFG% of 57.3%.
  • Utah rebounded 41% of their missed shots (12 out of 27), meaning that Michigan has allowed opponents to rebound 40% of their misses in five out of eight games.

This team is struggling in so many facets that it is tough to even know where to start.  This is a team in disarray and their struggles are snowballing. They aren’t getting better, they are probably getting worse.

If you look back at every successful season John Beilein has had, he emphasizes one thing: team chemistry. It sounds extremely cliché but there is obviously something to it. Something just isn’t working with this team that worked last year. In many ways, Michigan’s early season losses have snowballed in the same fashion that last year’s wins in the opposite direction.

At this point it seems unlikely that something will just click. This team is playing bad basketball and a 6-6 non conference record looks likely. As an astute commenter, Jeff, points out that means Michigan is on the NIT bubble, likely needing a 9-9 conference record to make the NIT.

Player Bullets:

  • Manny Harris: Manny Harris was simply phenomenal, especially considering the fact that he probably isn’t even 100%. He single handily kept Michigan in the game with 25 points (8 of 16 shooting, 3-5 3pt), 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. My one complain with Manny’s game is that it feels like he is roaming far too much on defense, going for cheap steals and getting out of position. They can lead to fast break points but I think that is at least part of Michigan’s defensive breakdowns. We know he can produce, now he needs to become a leader and take ownership of this team.
  • DeShawn Sims: DeShawn Sims is killing this team, period. Michigan needs him to be productive but against real teams he is disappearing, jacking up threes (7 3 point attempts is far too many), and grabbing rebounds on the floor. This is the DeShawn Sims of two years ago, last year’s Peedi is gone. Michigan simply can’t be a good team without DeShawn’s production.
  • Darius Morris: Darius is one of the few bright spots, he appears to be getting more comfortable with the offense and finding ways to fill up the stat sheet: 7 points (3-8 shooting), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers. The problem is that his jump shot needs so much work, he doesn’t need to be a lights out three point shooter but he needs to be able to hit pull-up jumpers and finish in the lane.
  • Stu Douglass: I don’t know what’s more painful, watching Stu play these days or concluding that he still might be Michigan’s best option. Stu’s confidence has been shattered completely and now it is affecting his ball handling and decision making.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry: Last year it was clear that Laval struggled to pick up the offense. It tended to stagnate with him in the game and he struggled to find his role. I attributed most of his struggles to joining the team in mid-season and had high hopes for this year. He appears to still be struggling, as evidenced by his 11 minutes of playing time in a game where Stu played that poorly.
  • Eso Akunne: You can see what the coaches love about Eso but Michigan isn’t going to be able to win many games when he plays 17 minutes at this point. It’s certainly a tough situation with Novak getting hurt and I thought Eso stepped up the best that he could, especially considering he probably practiced with the scout team for most of this season. I wouldn’t be opposed to experimenting with Eso at the four a bit, taking some minutes from Anthony Wright.
  • Anthony Wright: 10 minutes with little production, his transition three point attempt was the epitome of poor shot selection.
  • Zack Gibson: We got a pretty good example of why Michigan doesn’t go big all too often. Sims and Gibson are not much of a rebounding combination and their lack of quickness hurts Michigan.
  • Matt Vogrich: Matt showed some flashes, including at least one very nice dish, however he just lacks the quickness on defense to stay on the court for very long.

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  • Dave

    People keep talking about how Matt Vogrich isn’t quick enough to play in this defense. But this is usually followed up by some expression of hope that it’ll be better in the future. Granted, the kid could almost certainly benefit from a year or two of S&C, but what makes us think he’ll be more capable in the future. Is it something about mental recognition of what to do that should make him appear quicker? This isn’t meant as a dig at the kid, I’ve just been a bit confused by the universal sentiment that he’s a bit of a liability now but won’t be in the future.

  • AG2

    I counted at least 3 times someone from Utah would run in from out of nowhere to grab the offensive rebound. Box out much, guys?

  • Bball

    Dave – it takes time to “learn” how to play defense on the division one college level. This is a huge jump for these kids, and if they are not blessed with great quickness, then anticipation, recognition and deploying a scouting report to take away the opposing players strengths’ can all be learned.

    For example, Shane Battier consistently holds down the other team’s top scoring threat because he is able to force them into their lowest percentage shots time and again.

  • maxwell’s demon

    How can every single major UofM and Detroit professional sport disappoint their fans in one year? I suppose there’s always hope for the Wings, although I hardly even care about them. At least I can root for USA in the Olympics.

  • Brady

    Stu Douglass was AWFUL last night, his 1st half was awful, then he STARTED the 2nd half, I couldn’t figure that one out, he plays scared out there and he got lost on D a few times, why is this kid in the rotation, are we THAT bad?

  • Old Style

    When shooters aren’t hitting their shots they’re not very good. Not many of these kids were brought in for their quickness or rebounding and it shows.

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  • gpsimms

    Honestly, I still think this ‘we miss gritty-ness and leadership’ of Merritt and Lee is overblown.

    Unless their leadership was the reason DeShawn was awesome last year, and terrible so far this year, then I’m placing almost all the problems on his shoulders.

    The production of the guards has not fallen off that much from last year. The production at the three has improved (i.e. Manny is even better). And Novak’s production hasn’t fallen off that much. But the 5 has been a huge problem in all of our losses.

    This team goes as far as DeShawn takes it, and I hope it’s not already gotten to be too late.

  • Jeff

    Here’s another depressing tidbit. Matt Vogrich, who someone at dubbed the best highschool shooter in the country last year, has made exactly one three-pointer against Division One competition. It almost seems like a team-wide infection (with Harris the only one having immunity) has spread throughout this team, the latest one infected being Lucas-Perry whose minutes dropped dramatically the last two games.

  • Justin

    16-16 puts them out of the NIT.

    If you look at recent NIT bids since the NIT started handing out automatic bids to lower conference champions, there hasn’t been a team that received a bid that was not at least 2 games above .500.

    In other words, 10-8 gives this team a shot at the NIT with a 6-6 non-conference mark.

    If UM is in position to play in the CBI, I would hope they decline it. Most major conference schools have refused to participate, and I don’t see how a team that was considered a top 20 preseason team would be excited for a 3rd rate postseason tournament.

  • AA

    Nice article, Dylan.

    Didn’t have to swim through an
    ocean of Kool-Aid to get the gist.

    It is beginning to seem certain that this season is going to be one of regression and not progression. They look terrible against ordinary teams. Harvard beat BC by 7 this weekend.

    It is nasty to believe that the progress of last season is down the tubes and we are again in regression analysis.

    I am beginning to again be worried about whether the Beilein system can be effective in the B10, and whether his system of recruiting will help them prosper.

    His first year I thought not, his second I thought he was a genius, and now I don’t know what to think except that right now they are a bad basketball team imploding further.

    I truly hope they can turn it around as JB represents Michigan so well.

    Win or lose, I will support the Wolverines all I can, but I would like to support a winning team more often.

    Hold your fire, fellas, I am not a fair weather fan as I have been supporting Wolverine Basketball for sixty-five years. Those years have had some real highs and lows.

    At least I don’t get splinters from the seats anymore. No more brain damage.

  • Alex


    Can you say that there hasn’t been regression on all fronts on the defensive end? I think that is the more concerning matter here. Remember last year how we were quite awful on defense until we found out it was necessary to succeed in the Big 10. Not coincidentally that’s when CJ’s minutes went from 15 to 30 a game. I think the defensive problems go far beyond just Sims.

    Basketball is also a sport where you need someone to light the fire under the asses of young players. Belein is a teacher, not a military general. Senior leadership is very necessary at this point. Mentally they just aren’t there at all.

  • TomThrice

    I wouldn’t have been surprised if we played like this at the start of last season but I’m shocked at how consistently bad this team is playing in the third year of Beilein. Like AA I was skeptical of Beilein and his system when he first came here but he obviously won me over last year. Now I’m not too sure. I haven’t seen any game this year that would make me think this team is capable of even going .500 in the Big Ten. Boston College is not a good team, neither is Utah. We are losing to teams that will struggle to make the NIT. U of D has improved a lot over last season. We should win but I wouldn’t be surprised to see us lose. I have no confidence in this team.

    I thought watching the Detroit Tigers offense this past year was frustrating. I thought watching Michigan Football defense was frustrating. But watching Michigan Basketball on either side of the ball is the even more frustrating because I was expecting so much more. It’s like a punishment to watch them play right now.

  • Jay

    Peedi is from Detroit right? He sure dont play like it!! He play like he from Beverly Hills! Pure softness, Deshawn “Charmin Tissue” Simms! I would rather see Courtney Simms out there right now. This team has no vocal leader clearly, and they take on Charmins mentality. When he is going the team is pretty good, when he wants to prance around and not get dirty they fold. We have no other options, and he is way to skilled to not be able to pump fake Lurch of the Adams family from Utah, and go to the cup! Same way he played that big stiff from Illinois, scared! Feel sorry for Manny, that nobody else on this team can pump fake and put the ball on the floor for at least one dribble and get a better shot or draw a defender to make a better pass

  • Mike

    I definitely haven’t given up on this season yet — the shooting has to improve, though the defense scares me a little — but I actually think the team will improve next year. Before, I thought that this was the year to do big things, as losing Manny and Peedi would set the team back at least a year. But I’m starting to reconsider — this team obviously needs someone other than Manny to put the ball in the hoop, and, even if he leaves, next year’s squad should have some more scorers. If Darius continues to improve, he could average double digits, but I definitely think guys like Hardaway and Smotrycz will make opposing defenses stay honest, hopefully opening it up for the three-point shooters. And if they can land Trey, things are looking up.

    I definitely still think Michigan can still make the tournament — making predictions in December is utterly futile in college basketball. But, given the shortcomings of this team, I’m starting to become more optimistic about next year’s team, and, particularly, the recruiting class.

  • JalenIsEmbarrassed

    Kelvin Grady (enough said) Beilein needs to swallow his pride and get this man back onto the court. This team severely lacks point guard depth, quickness and athleticism not to mention shooters!!!! and for those of you thinking he wasnt a shooter note: .361% from behind the arc was 2nd best on the team last year behind CJ Lee. Grady got in Beileins dog house early because of his hot dog passes and his inability to play at the top of the 1-3-1 defense. Despite his negatives he still single handily beat Duke, he’s our best ball handler/best shooter and he brings quickness and athleticism that is severely lacking.

    Beilein pick up the phone and make him realize that he should have never picked up a football helmet or the NIT will be calling our name in March.

  • Jim

    Unfortunately, expectations were extremely high and results so far extremely low, the worst combination possible. The season is still young and I’m confident things will get better, can’t get any worse right?

    The team has two leaders as far as I’m concerned, Manny through his play and Zack through his fiery competitiveness. Not having Zack last night, despite his lack of size and defensive shortcomings inside, was sorely missed.

    Beilein knows what he’s doing and will get it right, eventually. He is not, and never has been, a defensive coach. He spends his practice time almost entirely on offense. An efficient offense will many times mask your defensive weaknesses. Unfortunately, offense is a big problem at the moment and is leading to breakdowns on defense and transition defense. The offense will come around as Beilein is one of the nation’s best offensive minds. In the mean time it would be nice if people would lay off calling certain players awful and the like. I’m certain they’re doing their best in practice and for whatever reason it just isn’t happening right now on the court.

    Michigan is totally unlike any other school Beilein has coached. IMO he is still trying to figure out the best way to recruit prospects. In the past he had to rely on under-the-radar types because of the inability to attract blue chippers. And for the most part he’s done that at UM until recently, which explains why he has such an unusual number of walk-ons, red-shirts and potential red shirts.

    IMO, there are two huge needs on the recruiting front, someone like Trey Ziegler(although have to wonder with UM’s play this year if he may be less likely now) to replace Manny and a reliable interior scorer. Right now, the only possible solution is Jordan Morgan for the inside. It’s painful to watch Big Ben try and move around the court. The announcers said that his hip operation resulted in one leg being shorter than the other, which seems to be making it difficult for Ben to get off the floor and move about. McLimans and Smotrycz are both perimeter oriented players and I just don’t see them being effective interior scorers. An inside presence would create more time and distance for the perimeter shooters, which would make them much more effective.

    It’s still a work in progress. Let’s stay positive and support Beilein and the team. I think we’ll all be extremely satisfied in the end.

  • JayRich

    I’m disappointed at all the negativity on this site. Obviously, everyone is disappointed but none of this name calling is going to do any good.

    gpsimms, I totally agree with you that the leadership of our graduated walk-ons is overhyped. We will win games when we make our shots…plain and simple. Defense definitely needs to improve but our offense is the problem.

    Keep the faith, gentlemen. Support them. I am not saying you can’t criticize but do it in the right manner. It’s one thing to say Stu needs better shot selection and another to say he sucks balls.

  • AG2

    According to ESPN, its official that Brian Kelly is ND’s new coach. He won championships at GVSU, he won championships at CMU, and championships at Cinci.

    For a guy who came up through Michigan, I’m absolutely shocked that neither Michigan nor MSU took a chance on him the way OSU took a chance on Tressel when he was a I-AA coach. He would have been a perfect fit.

  • Except for the game, my trip to Utah was fabulous. Geoffrey and I stayed in Moab over the weekend, best biking, hiking I have ever seen

  • ToBlav

    Teams bounce back after hitting rock bottom. I seems like that game may have been our rock bottom. I sure hope so. Coach gave several different players a chance to show what they can do because the main rotation wasn’t getting it done. I thought Akunne showed a enough to get more time and Morris actually showed progress in spots. Unles it turns around it looks like next years recruits will play from day one. Good point above about us needing to stay positive. If the players arn’t better at keeping a positive attitude . . . I keep telling myself think positive, have faith, etc.

  • Mith

    I don’t know, ToBlav. I would have called Alabama or BC rock bottom. Seems like we’re just skidding along the bottom.

  • JimC

    Losing to UofD (a real possibility from what I’ve read) would be rock bottom.

  • Brick

    Anyone mentioning a bottom must have started following the team after the Brian Ellerbe era.

  • JB

    nearly at a loss of words but here goes…

    although we have a lot of glaring problems, our biggest is mental. We are completely shell shocked right now. We need to stop the bleeding and it’s gonna take a ton of work and toughness. I hate that we’re play kansas next weekend. we’ve lost to some very ordinary teams and need to play our asses off in the big ten, but I don’t see us doing that. what a disgusting start to our season.

    beat the titans…

  • JB

    interesting short update on horford and the other recruits.

  • What a disappoint this season has been. Expectations were high. We might not even make the NIT – pathetic. I hate to be a downer, but I guess we start looking to next year. Recruiting athletic, good dribblers and drivers is the answer.

  • AlexG

    Shooting problems begin with shot selection. Sign of a young team. Hopefully we can grow up in a hurry. The defense is bad…and my biggest concern is, not only are we not winning, but we are putting an extremely unattractive, unfun product out on the floor right now. It is hard to watch a game like this one and not spend all my time just hoping that there aren’t any recruits watching. I was flipping back and forth during commericials to the Nova game and UK/UConn…and my Dad kept reminding me to turn it back to the “JV” game and I totally knew what he was talking about. Those are all really good teams but the difference in the level of play was startling and depressing. As I said, hopefully we can do some growing up fast and get on a hot streak some time soon…real soon.

  • AG2

    You can’t call this rock bottom when we’ve still got a potential 20-30 point beat down at Allen Fieldhouse a week from Saturday.

  • Chris

    Looks like no tournament this year for Michigan. Other than Manny Harris no one on the team is forcing the issue and is constantly back on their heals reacting to what the other team is doing. They are only shooting 29% from 3 point range this year which is 242 out of 258 teams. A Coach Beilein led squad lives and dies with the 3 and so far that is what is happening and we are dying. We need to be shooting about 40% from 3 point range to be affective IMO.

    The lack of shooting is also translating to the defensive end of the floor because MIchigan goes to their 1-3-1 zone after makes and if you aren’t making shots you can’t implement that strategy. Last nights game was evident after misses they gave up numerous easy layups in transition because the guards like Harris and Morris have to crash the boards.

    Also not being able to hit shots allows defenders to play off of our shooters and take DeShawn Sims out of the game as last night he was only 2-7 with 3 rebounds against two 7-footers from Utah who camped under the basket all night. LLP is out of sync and Douglas has lost his shot and needs to find it. Morris is coming around, but we need to shoot the ball better end of story otherwise it is going to be a long year.

    With the loss to Utah and potential losses to U-Conn and Kansas still looming that would give a us 6-6 in non-conference play with really no quality wins. What would we need in conference to make the tournament. 11-7 with 2 wins the B10 tournament to get to 19 wins perhaps.

    I don’t even want to think about what it will be like next year with out Manny(who should stay for his last year, still very skinny and doesn’t look NBA ready IMO) or Sims.

  • gpsimms

    I agree, Chris. I think a lot of the defensive problems are coming from the struggles with the ball. Defense works a lot better when people are running hard. It’s easier to run hard after you throw in a clutch shot, or get an easy layup.

    @Alex, I agree the defense has been pretty rough on all counts, and I have to admit I couldn’t really watch this Utah game because of its not being on a channel I get. All I am saying is that when I look at Oproduction numbers, there is one spot with a more glaring difference than any other.

    In some ways, that is why there is hope still for this year, though. We know DeShawn can be better, and I think when he is, the whole team will respond. On *both* ends of the floor.

    Finally, I just sent the +/- in to Dylan, and while the whole defense is bad, you can see DeShawn’s defensive numbers are some of the worst, only Akunne and Douglass allowed more points/minute. He allows considerably more points/min than our other fives, Gibson and Cronin, (but obvs. small sample size for Cronin).

  • Dirtgrain

    I’m not writing them off yet. Things can change. I’m hoping for something inspirational.

  • I Miss Alan Branch

    ANALOGY TIME . . .

    We are coming out of a deep basketball winter. It sucked living through it. Last year was like a late February day in the 60s. Right now we’re back in the 30s, but spring is coming. We will luxuriate in the torrid, sun drenched, MSU beating, early July soon. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year. But soon. And it’s gonna be sweet and delicious because of the long, cold winter. Patience . . . patience.

  • Jayson

    anybody else feel like this upcoming kansas game will be EXACTLY what this team needs??? either A) a beatdown to fire the team up or B) we are huge underdogs and revert back to last year and start playing well….either way, i think we start to turn it around playing KU…maybe its too late, but hey, look for some better basketball from this team in the next few weeks…im just sayin’

  • Old Style

    gpsimms, playing Simms as a 5 against Utah is a tough draw for the kid. He’s 6-8 and playing 2 7′ players. Chances are he will struggle.
    Whoever mentioned the defense improving once shots start falling is thinking the way I do. Leadership seems to be everyone’s cause for the problem but I think if we hit 40% of our 3’s you will see a lot more energy and much better D.
    That being said I hope Beilein starts looking at some better athletes that can shoot.

  • Sid

    I don’t think a beatdown will fire this team up.

  • maxwell’s demon

    You know what really sucks about all this? We finally have a legitimate sized Maize Rage and now most of them will stop going, not to mention the older folk.

  • hambone

    maxwell, youre exactly right – i suffered through four years of TA coached teams with nobody in the arena; and now, theyve recruited the student body, and its going to fall flat on its face. the next major game will be the CT game on MLK weekend. a good turn-out and a W there will keep some of them coming

  • gpsimms

    about the tough draws for this team defensively: We thought Marquette was a tough draw because of their athleticism and speed, and now Utah is a tough draw because of their height.

    So great, we’ll be ok against all slow, short teams. I guess we’ll beat Iowa?

    Sims is the kind of guy that should create matchup problems for those 7’0″ers as well.

  • Jeff

    I Miss Alan,

    I love that analogy. I sure hope you’re right. I was looking forward to basketball season since last season ended. It’s been quite an unpleasant shock how things have played out so far. Expectations have been adjusted and I’m just hoping they’ll start playing better.

  • Jay

    Thank you gpsimms!! All these excuses for why we cant do anything. Charmin Peedi Simms is playing flat out soft!! Yes hes undersized on D, but on O he should be a matchup nightmare for any 7foot + stiff! Peedi can dribble, and shoot, which means they have to respect him outside. SO pumpfake the darn ball and get to the cup! He is not playing against Dwight Howard, or KG..hes playing vs a mini Shawn Bradley and he folds! SOFT SOFT SOFT! Wake me when Deshawn Peedi Simms stands up like he has something to prove. NBA talent cannot be associated with someone who folds when someone is taller then them, NEWSFLASH Peedi will be undersized at the next level also!! Manny can go for 40 every night but if Charmin dont step up on the inside, we will not win because his presence opens up things on the perimeter for our stationary shooters!

  • Old Style

    Jay, I don’t think Utah respects Simms outside. They let him fire up 7 threes.

  • Jay

    Would you respect a shot if the guy isnt making any? He knocks 1-2 down, then Lurch has to step out and he blows by them. Remember the play when Lurch blocked his 3 from the paint cause Peedi didnt pump fake the big stiff? Im saying he has the skill set to pump fake and get inside the arc for a mid range jumper instead of firing up 3’s like he’s rasheed wallace

  • mike

    Calling it Quits already? I mean did you see Michigan last year? No way CJ Lee did that much to help the team. Were shooting the ball horribly, teams are scoring on us at will, thats not the team i saw last year cept getting dominated on the glass. I see this team finishing 19-11, which aint great but no way this team dont make it into the tournament. Were going to start shooting the ball better and have got to start playin defense somewhat better. We got an easy schedule for the beginning of the big ten schedule.At least as easy as its going to get with Indiana and a missing turner for OSU, and Penn St. We can’t lose to the weak teams in the big ten: Indiana, Penn St, Iowa. That game at Iowa was tetrrible L. This team will improve, but it better happen soon when we got to travel to Kansas next Sat